by Tom Utescher
For Inter-Ac and Friends Schools League crews from the area, the smallest boats were the most successful on the first day of last weekend’s Stotesbury Cup Regatta, but on the second day, they were almost banned from racing entirely.
What is billed as the nation’s largest and oldest scholastic rowing event was disrupted by Friday’s heavy rainfall, and river conditions on Saturday pushed back the start of the racing to early afternoon and caused regatta officials to announce that the final round races for singles and doubles (one and two-person sculls) would be put on hold.
Following the finals featuring the larger vessels, it was determined that the reduction of the height and speed of the river and the dissipation of the debris field that had filled the water would allow for the small fry to compete.
The result for area scullers was a pair of medals at the prestigious regatta, a gold in the senior single for Hill resident Kate Horvat of Germantown Academy, and a bronze medal in the senior double for Jaime MacEachern and Thomas Andrews from Springside Chestnut Hill.
In soggy, sometimes drenching conditions on Friday morning and early afternoon, crews initially had to participate in time trials, where their times along the 1500-meter course would determine if they would advance to the semifinals.
All three entries from Germantown Friends made it through the initial stage. First up, Addie McKenzie and Sophie Bartholomew propelled one of the 12 girls’ junior doubles to advance, with their time ranking them seventh among the 24 twosomes that started out.
In both the girls’ junior quad (Becca Genyk, Tessa Curry, Jess Newberg, Olenka Jain) and the boys’ senior single, Tigers scullers found themselves part of an initial field of 26. Only a dozen of the quads would advance, and Germantown grabbed the last spot to move on. In the single 18 lads would make the cut, and GFS senior Ethan Genyk (Becca’s older brother) placed in the middle of that group, 10th in the order.
The SCH boys did very well, but the girls struggled in the initial stage of the regatta. All four boys’ boats qualified; the junior double with John Funchion and Callum Brazier (14th of 18 advancing; 32 entered), the lightweight double with Zac Cohen and Will Tasman (sixth of 12 advancing; 18 entered), MacEachern and Andrews’ senior double (fifth of 12 advancing; 22 entered), and the senior four containing Matt Miller, Carlen Veasey, Will Elliott, Riley Bakes, and cox Nelson Crane (18th of 18 advancing; 52 entered).
On the girls’ side, only one of seven boats that started out was able to continue. The survivor was the Blue Devils’ senior double, staffed by Liz McClafferty and Mariel Soto Reyes. They were one of 22 duos that participated in the trials in this category, and they earned the sixth position among the 12 boats that made the cut.
Overall, Penn Charter’s hopes took a huge hit in the time trial stage. Out of four boys and four girls crews that signed up for Stotes, only the Quakers’ boys junior double (Ethan Ashley, Pete Ciarroccki) was left afloat after the opening phase of the regatta. Out of a field of 32, they were 12th on the list of 18 boats that moved forward.
The Quakers couldn’t be blamed for feeling somewhat snake-bit; three of other their boats each ended up just one place shy of the qualifying standard.
As is customary at Stotesbury, roughly a third of the semifinal-round races were scheduled for late Friday afternoon, with the rest slated for Saturday morning. For the most part, racing had been delayed, but not halted by the persistent precipitation, but late in the day too many foreign objects were floating downriver for the competition to continue.
Only one of the area crews was able to fit in a semifinal appearance before the ban; the GFS girls’ double came in fourth in its semifinal section, and only the top three would be moving on.
The rowers returned to the river early on Saturday morning, but had to wait for hours until their fate was announced shortly before midday. During the night, the Schuylkill had come out of its banks in places, and although the level had subsided, the river was still high and the current quite swift, with numerous tree limbs and clumps of vegetation drifting by, along with some strange, unidentifiable objects (one looked a little like a steamer trunk, but no one could be certain).
Rumors cropped up that the remaining semifinals would eliminated altogether, and it was uncertain if the regatta would continue in any form. Eventually the official word came down that boats with four or more occupants would go straight to the finals, with the field in each category made up of the crews with the six fastest times from Friday’s trials. These bouts would begin at 2:00 PM, and a few hours later it would be determined if the singles and doubles (lighter and more difficult to control in strong currents) would be allowed to race at all.
The top-six stipulation immediately knocked out all but three of the GFS, PC, and SCH crews that had made it through time trials. The ones that were left were all Springside Chestnut Hill doubles, and even their situation was still on hold.
Once most of the finals for the fours, quads and eights had taken place, the smaller boats got the go-ahead, although after the first two races, the contests were started farther downriver and were shortened to 1000 meters. In the last of the 1500-meter finals, Germantown Academy 11th-graders Zach Burkhart and Hunter Pruitt won the silver medal for the junior double in four minutes, 38.30 seconds, finishing between champion Friends Select (4:35.27) and third-place Denis Morris, of Ontario.
For the first two boats to race for Springside Chestnut Hill, things didn’t turn out as desired, with both the girls’ senior double and the boys’ lightweight double landing in sixth place. In the boys’ boat, Cohen and Tasman were less than a second behind fifth-place Bonner/Prendergast High School.
In the last race where SCH could hope to snare a Stotesbury medal, MacEachern and Andrews got it done. Near the finish, the front of the field separated into two separate duels. Malvern Prep edged out Rye (N.Y.) High School for the gold medal (3:02.02 to 3:02.04), while the Blue Devil duo had a little more room to spare as they beat out Upper Dublin High for the bronze, 3:07.08 to 3:08.37. Farther back in fifth and sixth were Conestoga High School and northern New Jersey’s Don Bosco Prep.
The final event in the entire regatta developed into a three-way battle royal in the girls’ senior single between GA’s Horvat and rivals from two different schools that each had “Episcopal” in its name. Throughout the season, the Patriots’ standout has been pushed hard by Natalie Stuart, a senior at Inter-Ac League rival Episcopal Academy, located in Newtown Square.
The top qualifier, Horvat was in lane three for Saturday’s final and led after the halfway point. Alongside Peter’s Island with a few hundred meters to go, Stuart, just to the outside, briefly took the lead. Horvat fought ahead again, but now on the inside in lane two, the entry from Episcopal School of Dallas, Texas forged in front of both Pennsylvanians.
Horvat prevailed in an all-out finishing sprint for the gold, winning in 3:43.75 ahead of Stuart (silver; 3:44.15) and Episcopal School junior Elizabeth Patrick (bronze; 3:45.29).
It had taken quite awhile for Horvat and the SCH boys to find out if they’d be able to race in a final at all, but a Stotesbury medal made it worth the wait.